We go to networking events to meet new people and chat with them. Sometimes, however, these chats go on longer than we might like. Extracting oneself can require more social deftness than many of us feel we possess. But awkward as it may feel, it really doesn’t need to be. Here are seven good ways to exit a conversation.
Much of the stress of ending a conversation comes from knowing there are other people you should meet or say hello to. So look at the attendee list ahead of time, and figure out who these people are. Do what you can to meet them first. Hang out by the name tags if necessary. Also, knowing who you wish to speak with offers an easy end to a conversation: “Excuse me, I see my old colleague and I need to say hello.”
Sometimes going to networking events alone is a good idea. It forces you to meet new people. However, since some of the stress of leaving a conversation stems from not knowing what conversation you’ll join next, going with one friend, and making a pact not to talk with each other unless necessary, can be a helpful strategy. If you see your friend locked in conversation, you can drift by, and hopefully she will reciprocate.
If you know a fair number of people at the event, ask what the other person hopes to achieve, and offer to introduce her to someone who could help make that happen. Moving a conversation is an easy way to end it.
This is the best of all worlds. The conversation ends with the other person feeling helpful, and you make a new connection.
“We’re both here to network, and I don’t want to monopolize your time.” You can hand over a business card if you wish (keep them in your pocket for easy access). Thank the person for a nice conversation and walk away.
If your group has gotten big enough, you can just quietly say “excuse me” to the person next to you and wander off.
If you meet the people you need to meet first, then you can just relax and let any other conversations go where they will. Instead of looking around for an escape option, fully focus on the person in front of you and practice the fine art of small talk. Maybe you’ll get something useful out of it, like a restaurant recommendation or the name of a website to check out.
But even if the person is talking your ear off about something random, you might learn an interesting fact or two that you can use in your next conversation. There will be others. Long as the conversation may seem, it won’t go on forever.